Small cars are becoming more refined, more technologically advanced and more expensive. This is a challenge for a brand like Skoda with a reputation for value.
Its new Fabia is not a revolution though. In fact, under the skin it remains the same.
Tweaks to the bumpers, headlights and wheels complete the exterior makeover, while the interior is largely business as usual too - other than a new infotainment system.
The Fabia is Skoda’s second best-selling model in the UK, after the Octavia, so sticking to the proven formula should pay off for the brand.
The base S model still represents great value, costing just £12,840. We’d recommend fleets stick to the SE, as it comes with smartphone connectivity, air conditioning and alloy wheels.
Skoda has dropped the Fabia’s diesel engine, offering just three 1.0-litre petrol units.
The cheapest MPI develops 75PS and emits 110g/km of CO2. More potent TSI turbocharged versions offer 95PS or 110PS. The 95PS is the most efficient, emitting 104g/km of CO2.
Only the most powerful engine gets a six-speed manual gearbox, or the option of a seven-speed DSG. The rest of the range makes do with a five-speed manual.
We tested both TSI models. The more powerful unit is a better choice for those covering lots of miles, due to its extra gear, but the 95PS unit has plenty of grunt and promises more than 60mpg.
Inside, the Fabia feels more cramped than in the VW Polo or Seat Ibiza. This is because it's based on an older platform, meaning there is a little less legroom and boot space than you get in either of the Fabia’s stablemates.
The interior is awash with hard plastics, but at this price point that is expected.
Importantly, the Fabia is comfortable and quiet. It rides well and has light controls and good visibility.
Drivability is less dynamic than the class leading hatchbacks - as you might expect. Drivers will not choose the Fabia if they are concerned about handling and performance. It is still the sensible choice when compared to the Ibiza or new Ford Fiesta.
The facelift introduces more equipment as standard. Base models get Front Assist, a trip computer and LED daytime running lights.
Unlike its sister brand Seat – which has moved to a trim-only model - most features on the Skoda are optional. Even on more-luxurious SE L models you have to pay extra for parking sensors, electric rear windows and automatic headlight and wiper activation.
Blind spot monitor is now available for the first time on a Fabia, costing £390. Drivers can also specify adaptive cruise control for a modest £185.
At £14,895 the Fabia SE 95PS undercuts its key rivals quite significantly, offering fleet drivers a solid and comfortable no-frills experience for little monthly outlay.
Model tested: Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI SE 95PS